Can a local community pay for its own regeneration instead of relying on developers with tall blocks of flats and massive government grants? I got thinking about this again after reading a jargon-fuelled paper on urban rights and renewal sent my way by local hero Eileen Conn. The author writes about communities owning, or controlling, their urban environment, and being able to determine how to spend “surplus value” (Marxist terminology for capital that rich people and governments accumulate off our backs). How could local people in Peckham, for example, decide how money is spent in the area?
Here are two quick steps that are decidely practical compared to the ivory tower academic paper.
First, give people more control over the property and land in Peckham. At the moment you either buy a home and the land it sits on, or you rent from a landlord, or you rent from the council/a housing association. So you’re either wealthy, or at the mercy of somebody over whom you have little control. If all new housing in Peckham was built by mutual housing associations – where the association builds the house on a corporate loan, and as a member you pay a monthly amount to buy equity in the association so it can service the loan – we’d have the choice of gradually building up equity (like owning a house) in an affordable way (like living in council housing) and have the advantage of having a direct voice in how the co-op runs the homes. To seal the deal, the co-op could own the land through a community land trust, making it permanently affordable.
Second, enable people to invest their savings in local improvement schemes rather than abstract bank accounts. Use Southwark Credit Union and community finance co-ops like the Wessex Community Assets to directly invest local people’s money in good schemes, like helping shop keepers do up their shop fronts, investing in new mutual housing schemes, or helping Peckham Power bring renewables to our buildings.
We’ve plenty of money in Peckham. Not the mega-bucks that big developers could bring, or major government regeneration schemes shower on consultants. But enough to revitalise the local area, if we take more control over our local area.
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I sort of agree with the thrust of your ideas but really, do you honestly think those in power are going to give up their rights as easily as you suggest? I doubt it.
BUT, what they don’t realise is that modern day technologies are putting the citizen more in the driving seat – what I AM talking about is information. It’s as valuable as land – who owns it right now? Yep, not you. Corporations like Tesco, and the government who buy it from third party intermediaries (or at least they do in the states…). They sell it for profit – do you ever see any of that dosh? Nope.
Anyhow, take a look at my website and you will see that a community owned loyalty programme which asset locks personal info is something that will blow up in the next few years as people begin to realise the value of owning their own data. Power to the people…it’s a revolution waiting to happen. This time Mr Marx might get his way.
So long as you get control of a council, or get the councillors on your side, you can do all of the things I suggest. You don’t need to get people to give up much power, and on things like housing councillors are only too happy to anyway ‘cos it’s a pain for them.
Your site looks interesting, thanks, I’ll have a proper read some time soon.
Very good blog Tom, I really like the idea of community land trusts and coop housing. It is amazing that in the 1970 and still on the continent their were/ are many more coops. I often think why there are not more in the UK and it often comes down to not government but people being able to set up groups in their community and then having the will to see it through.
When I was at NUS we were trying to set up student housing coops with URBED and homes for change in manchester but the problem was it was going to take many years to finance build and then run and the constent democratic cycles made it difficult to keep the support and momentum.
As I get older I wish I had more time to work on projects like this but work takes over. 🙁
hope you are well
I’m very interested in ways in which local councils, regional bodies like the GLA, quangos like the HCA and central Government can mainstream co-ops. In Norway they own 14% of the housing stock, and are far from the Radical Roots style of co-op that you often come across here.
Short of a radical shift in the economic and social structures that shape our lives, the truly ground-up co-ops won’t ever take off. For one thing the land is too damned expensive for any random group of low income citizens to buy up!
Boris suggested in his manifesto that he would make the LDA use a large part of its available land for CLTs + MHOs, but has so far translated this into little more than a promised CLT pilot and no mention of MHOs.
Thanks, I’m well, hope all is well with the LDs now Clegg is junking half your good policies 😉
[…] a recent blog entry I wrote about the money side of the equation – how you can enable local people to directly […]
[…] hope that an action plan that puts, at its heart, the idea that a supported local community can revitalise and take control of their local area is the best way to win people back to positive politics, and […]
[…] something I have recently worked on with Jenny Jones. I have also written in the past about opportunities for local communities to regenerate their area without waiting, cap in hand, for big chunks of government […]
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